Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ghani’s no to CPEC: Who will be the loser?

OVER the years Kabul has been pressing hard Pakistan to open up the Wahga land transit for Afghan imports from India. In its latest push, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during his visit to New Delhi stated that his country would not be part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project (CPEC) unless it is given access to Wahga and Attari border. Addressing a gathering in the Indian capital, he warned that Kabul will restrict Pakistan’s access to Central Asian States if it is not given access to India through the CPEC.
Quite recently we also saw the Afghan President issuing a decree banning entrance of Pakistani trucks into Afghan territory as well as unilaterally putting off a meeting of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority. All these steps on the part of Kabul are linked with its demand that Indian side be included in the bilateral and trilateral transit trade agreements. It is important to keep in mind that the transit trade accord benefits Afghanistan far more than it does Pakistan. For the latter, it is little more than a diplomatic tool through which to engage and talk with a neighbour with whom ties are frayed. The way the Afghan President is speaking for India and its interests itself reflect the growing Indian influence in Afghanistan which has always played the role of spoiler. As a result of this, the trade volume between both Pakistan and Afghanistan has significantly dropped down. Before demanding Indian inclusion in the transit trade, the Afghan side also needs to understand and respect Pakistan’s stance as it has repeatedly made it clear that all matters pertaining to trade with India cannot be normalised sans the resolution of the outstanding disputes- the core amongst them is Jammu and Kashmir. How can Pakistan make a trade arrangement with India when its troops have unleashed an oppression campaign against the innocent Kashmiri people? The Afghan President must understand that no country benefits by putting the interests of another country ahead of its own in the formulation of its foreign policy. So instead of speaking for India, Ghani should put his country’s economic interests in the driving seat and engage with Pakistan to remove the current impediments in trade. When many other countries are showing interest to join the CPEC, the loser will be Afghanistan and not Pakistan if it stays away from the project as Pakistan has the option to reach Central Asian States bypassing Afghanistan. Anyway the spirit generated by the recent visit of Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to Afghanistan must not be allowed to dissipate by again resorting to diatribe at the behest of India

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